Communication with Tanzanians who speak limited English is a tricky balance between talking down to people and expecting too much of an understanding of English. Heat measurement devices, for instance, are difficult to explain. We were preparing to light our kiln on Friday while a VICOBA meeting took place in the other corner of the yard. Our activity around the kiln proved too much of a fascinating distracting for the meeting attendees and we were soon surrounded by a small and curious crowed. One man began asking questions about our work; what are you doing? Is that going to light? What is this for? We tried to answer as many questions as we could, assisted by Tim, one of the Dutch students who has taken an interested in our briquetting work and knows all about the work we do.

“What’s that?” asked the man, pointing to our heat sensors that we were inserting into the wood shavings.

“That’s for measuring temperature,” explains Tim. A blank look. “To see how hot. For heat. Like a thermometer? It tells you how much heat there is. Like, uh, how warm?” Gesturing with his hands he trails off.

“Oh, thermocouple. Ok,” the man says nodding. Way to whip out that terminology. I swear Tim’s jaw hit the ground. He looked quite taken aback. “Yep. That would be it. That would be the technical term.” Turning to me, “Yeah, didn’t see that one coming. Thermocouple.” Priceless.

At dinner that night, Tim told the story to the group to much laughter. “But Tim,” says Tucker. “The thermocouples say thermocouple right on them, right on the side in bold letters.” Well then. Does this make the interaction better? I don’t know but I’m still giggling.

Besides our attempts to communicate in English and Swahili which have been to varying degrees of success, we have had a very productive week. Last Saturday was the official opening of EMORG’s library (the library which we helped to paint a few weeks ago) which we arrived for promptly on Tanzanian time, by American standards, an hour and a half late. The building was shining and bright in the sun and, I do say so myself, looked beautiful. Didas and others gave speeches about the library and the community being built around it which was followed by a fabulous auction run by our very own James. James talked up the shirts and fabric quite well. I see a fulfilling time as an auctioneer in James’ future.

Sunday began a full working week for us. We now have the tanuru up and reliably running (horray!). We do a burn about every day now and produce about a 20% yield of charcoal. Basically, if we put in 17 kg of sawdust or wood shavings, we can press upwards of 300 briquettes. Slowly but surely we are covering the EARD-CI yard in drying briquettes. At the end of last week we put our stash of dry briquettes to good use by giving a few batches to Vision 4 Youth and to the Upendo group in Moivaro. Tucker and I brought the briquette batch to V4Y on Thursday for them to test themselves so they could begin thinking about pricing. But perhaps more exciting, we also gave V4Y a grant to begin their briquetting business. We just funded a start-up. That’s wicked cool. The week after next we’ll return to V4Y to help them build their very own kiln so they can start fuel production. Both we and they are very excited to finally start the physical work.

On Friday Tucker and Emily dropped of hundreds of briquettes with Sossy to pass on to the Upendo group so that they might test the briquettes and decide whether they’d like to try making their own again. The briquettes were warmly received (by everyone except the unfortunate cat which happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and was stepped on, quite by accident, by Tucker. Ouch.) and the women are excited to put them to the test.

We also have one more group which we’re setting up with a briquetting operation: EMORG. During his speech at the library opening ceremony, Didas mentioned that he hoped the Americans had not forgotten that they promised to build a kiln. Well great! We decided to give another grant to EMORG to fund the supplies necessary to construct a kiln and begin a briquetting operation and the week after next we’ll return for a full day of briquetting lesson and kiln building. So many kilns to build, so little time.

After a full working week, we took some time this weekend to relax try the touristy side of Arusha. Anna and Liliana came up from Dar for the weekend and James’ father and brother flew in from New York for the week. It’s a full house! Friday, we defied all American stereotypes and won a trivia game at a fundraising night held at Mango Tree to raise funds for EMORG. Ok, so we Americans won the first two rounds and then we were joined by our 8 European friends for the last few rounds. And maybe we were 16 people on the team when the other teams only had 4 or 6 members. But hey, it was fun.

One of the weekend’s highlights was a trip to the snake park. Thanks to Emily’s research we arrived on Sunday afternoon, perfectly in time for the weekly feeding. We watched, fascinated, as live chicks were tossed unceremoniously into the snake cages and the snakes sedately slithered their way over to the chirping birds, bit them, and, well, ate them. As we learned, eating is quite the process for snakes and took some snakes twenty minutes to consume a single chick. The main attraction was the python’s lunch: live rabbit. We have plenty of pictures if anyone is really curious.

And now we are ready for our mid trip break: a safari! We head out tomorrow morning. Many pictures to follow. Lala fofofo! Sleep well!

Trials of Communication

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